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The Health Department is monitoring information about COVID-19 (coronavirus). While the risk remains low in Belmont, this is a rapidly evolving health issue. The town has convened its Emergency Management Team, which consists of representatives from Health, Fire, Police, Town Administration, Facilities, and the Public Schools, to regularly meet and stay current about the virus and the situation in the United States.
The Health Department is also following guidance from the state Department of Public Health and asking returning travelers from Level 3 countries (currently China, Iran, Italy and South Korea) to self-quarantine (stay home) for 14 days from the date of entry to the United States and to self-monitor for symptoms consistent for COVID-19. Returning travelers from Level 2 countries (currently Japan) are asked to limit contact with others and to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Additional information about MDPH guidance regarding travel can be found here:
On March 6, Superintendent John Phelan notified parents in his newsletter about a Belmont High School teacher who traveled to Italy over February Break and returned to school on Feb. 23. Once the CDC guidance was updated March 4, the staff member self-quarantined, despite the fact there are no symptoms of illness showing.
"Given this staff member’s return from Italy was on Sunday, February 22, the staff member will return to work on Monday, March 9, as this will represent the expiration of the two week quarantine period," wrote Phelan in his newsletter to parents.
Disinfecting and sanitizing high touch surfaces
On March 4, Phelan announced in his newsletter, "In an effort to be proactive, the Belmont Public Schools will be disinfecting and sanitizing high-touch surfaces in all of our schools with hospital grade equipment, the Clorox T360, and the Geneon mister.. As you know this is the season for the common flu and our efforts will help reduce the spread of a number of problematic pathogens."
According to Phelan, the District purchased two disinfecting and sanitizing machines to treat all the high-touch points within the schools overnight. "The equipment and solutions are commonly used in hospitals where there are both medically compromised patients and pathogens. This speaks to the product safety and effectiveness (99.9 % of bacteria will be eradicated) given the areas and population served," wrote Phelan in a newsletter to parents.
"The manufacturer states 99.9 percent of bacteria will be eradicated in seconds. Common cold and flu viruses, MRSA, norovirus and similar pathogens will be eradicated in minutes," he wrote.
For more information, visit the Belmont Public School website, https://www.belmont.k12.ma.us/bps/
Assistant Superintendent Janice Darias said planned high school trips to Spain and China in April have been cancelled and a trip to Peru in June (after the school year) is under review.
In the FAQ below, the Belmont Health Department answers to some common questions residents may have about the virus and how the town is preparing to address related concerns:
Q: What is the best way to prevent getting COVID-19?
A: Practice personal prevention measures: wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. For more suggestions see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html
Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
A: Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-10 include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. More information about symptoms can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html
Q: What should I do if I develop a fever and respiratory illness?
A: If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness stay home from work and/or school. If you are concerned, call your healthcare provider for guidance. Your healthcare provider can help you determine next steps.
Q: Will I be alerted if Belmont residents or students have COVID-19?
A: Confirmed COVID-19 cases will be announced by MDPH by county with the person’s gender and general age to ensure patient confidentiality. No personal information will be shared publicly by town officials.
If you have questions about your particular situation, contact the Belmont Health Department, 617-993-2720;
KEEP THE CORONAVIRUS NEWS COMING WITH THIS SPECIAL NEWSLETTER
MAP OF REPORTED/SUSPECTED CASES IN NEW ENGLAND:
Beth Perdue, Gannet New England also contributed to this story